Finally, Pac-12 football is set to get underway in November. During a time in which the College Football season’s outlook was uncertain, the Conference announced a modified 2020 season, and the fans cannot wait to see their teams take the field. Meanwhile, a spirited quarterback battle brewing could have offensive implications not immediately apparent to most Oregon fans…
Projected to win back-to-back Pac-12 championships, the Oregon Ducks are arguably the most feared team in the Conference. Looking back to 2019, the Ducks finished the season with a 12-2 record, but this season will look much different than last year.
Of course, one of the biggest pieces of the Ducks’ success last season is no longer with the team. QB Justin Herbert has progressed into an NFL talent and is doing well for himself in professional football. Herbert helped Oregon win the Rose Bowl last season, but the Ducks cannot rely on his safety net in 2020.
Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown are expected to fill Herbert’s shoes this season. Shough (a redshirt freshman) has been with the program since 2019, playing in four games last season and looking comfortable as he tossed for three touchdowns and 144 yards. Brown is a former Boston College QB who transferred to Oregon for his senior year. He has suffered season-ending injuries twice in his collegiate career, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can challenge Shough for the starting position.
While Shough is the projected favorite to lead Oregon this season, he’ll also be battling up-and-coming QBs within the program. Freshmen Cale Millen and Jay Butterfield are attempting to gain playing time in Eugene, and Bradley Yaffe shouldn’t be out of the question either. The QB position in Oregon is competitive, which should help the Ducks in the long run. Knowing that your spot isn’t safe creates pressure, and the challenge of keeping your job should be enough to produce high-quality games from the potential starting QB.
Oregon, ranked 9th in the preseason AP Poll, (and currently 13th) has its sights set on another Pac-12 Championship. Believers see an opportunity for the Ducks to compete in the College Football Playoff, but at a minimum, this team is good enough to compete for a conference title.
The question remains — which QB will lead the team into battle? Looking at the Ducks’ schedule this season, they don’t have a ton of time to make a decision. With so few games upcoming, Oregon needs to name a starting QB and get the ball rolling. Until Oregon officially names Shough the starter, look for Butterfield, Millen, Yaffe and Brown to plead their cases in practice. Oregon made it clear that this position would be competitive and nothing will be given, so everything is wide open right now.
Oregon has a chance to win out its regular season. There is a talent discrepancy between the Ducks and the majority of the Pac-12 North, with perhaps just a slight edge in talent over Washington. With USC and Utah the only other ranked opponents in the Pac-12, Oregon will have an opportunity to ride the season out without a blemish on its record. Odds for the winner have not been released by some betting sites just yet, but it’s safe to predict that Oregon will own the best odds to win the Pac-12 Championship this season. USC might be able to contend with the Ducks, but in the North, Oregon has a clearest path to the championship game.
It is interesting that despite a crowded QB position, seniors exiting the program, and the uncertainty of this season, the Ducks are projected to be the top team in the conference again so quickly. The reason is that the Ducks are loaded with talent on both sides of the football with players including Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson and Kayvon Thibodeaux ready to lead the charge. All Oregon is missing is its (named) starting quarterback.
Again, Shough seems like the prime candidate for the starting role, but Head Coach Mario Cristobal has been rather tight-lipped about the situation. Cristobal mentioned that Shough remains the favorite, but wouldn’t elaborate. The challenge for the fans is that we have not seen Brown in action wearing a green uniform, and thus the natural tendency is to support the “one you know.”
Considering the history of quarterback injuries derailing a season at Oregon (let’s not start on Dennis Dixon), it is comforting to see a loaded quarterback room both in terms of numbers and game experience. Are you ready to name Tyler Shough the starter before seeing Anthony Brown in action?
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